Back in the day, your ancestors used to enjoy fresh, creamy, delicious milk straight from the udder. They also kept coming up with great ideas for other foods to make out of milk, like butter, cheese, and ice cream.
More recently, dairy scientists had another spectacular idea: low-fat milk! Fat's bad, right? By extension, low-fat milk -- 2%, 1%, and skim -- was supposed to be better for us. Even more recently every one became obsessed with almond, oat, cashew, and other various nut milks, but that's another discussion for another day. We're here to talk dairy, and the notion that taking the fat out of dairy milk makes it healthier turned out to be a bunch of bullshit, or cowshit, in this case.
Where does skim milk come from, anyway?
It's still coming from cows, don't worry. But there are a few steps with long names between the cow and the consumer: pasteurization, homogenization, and separation. Some people argue that we should skip all of these and campaign for hippie-friendly "raw milk." You can think of it as trendy, or you can acknowledge that when you skip the pasteurization and homogenization, you're really getting something that's potentially disease-causing and lumpy -- whatever floats your boat.
Separation is a little different, though. Milk producers take the cream out of the milk, then put some of it back in, depending on what label you want to stick on the carton. For skim milk, your dairy producer literally skims the cream off the top and leaves it out, whereas with 1% or 2% milk they're taking it out and adding some back in until it's 1% or 2% of the total volume. Yep, there's probably an ACT math problem for this.
"Whole" milk sounds like it's full of cream, but it's actually just over 3% fat -- dairy producers probably just leave that off the bottle for fear that grocery shoppers will get confused with so many numbers.